Definition of a Principal Investigator

Definition of a Principal Investigator

This policy defines the UAB employee classification/status of a UAB employee who may serve as a principal investigator on externally sponsored grants and contracts. This policy will also help OSP’s user community understand why, in certain cases, the PI of record for the funding entity may not be the PI of record for UAB. For example, on certain training or fellowship grants, UAB designates the mentor as the PI, whereas NIH designates the student as the PI.
Effective Date:
None Assigned
Administrative Category:
Applies To:
Faculty, Staff, Students
Material Original Source:


The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB or University) allows the following personnel, when they meet the funding entity’s requirements for eligibility to serve as a UAB Principal Investigator on externally funded (sponsored) grants or contracts administered by the University:

  • Any person who is or who upon receipt of the award will be a UAB employee with a UAB employment status of 01 (Full-time Regular), 03 (Part-time Regular), 04 retiree (Irregular), or 21 (Postdoctoral Scholar Employees). Personnel in 02 (Full-time Temporary) or other UAB employment categories will be considered on a case-by-case basis. (Employment Assignment Category Determination - HR Policy 411).

When a training or fellowship grant identifies a postdoctoral student (UAB employment status 20) or other UAB student as the principal investigator, UAB recognizes the student as the external entity designated Principal Investigator.  The UAB mentor or person who will supervise the training and research and who (1) is specifically named on the grant or contract application and (2) meets the above requirement for a principal investigator serves as the UAB Principal Investigator.

By signing the Extramural Checklist that accompanies a grant/contract application submitted to the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), the supervising administrator (chair, dean, vice president, or provost as appropriate) assures that the named UAB principal investigator or the student with the mentor’s oversight will have access to the adequate facilities as well as provide the scientific, technical, administrative, and financial leadership required for the proper conduct of the project or program including submission of all required reports.

For purposes of this policy, the term principal investigator encompasses titles such as project director or program director. 

While some funding entities explicitly allow multiple individuals to serve as principal investigators, UAB recognizes only one UAB Principal Investigator per sponsored project or subproject. This person is identified as such on the Extramural Checklist and is considered to be the contact principal investigator by the funding entity.

Approved on May 18, 2015 by:

Richard B. Marchase, PhD
Vice President for Research and Economic Development

Lynn W. Stedman
Director, Office of Sponsored Programs